World War I Centennial News


An American Dies in the Battle of the Somme 100 Years Ago

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff WritersseegerAlan Seeger was one of 24 American soldiers who died in the French Foreign Legion during World War I

One hundred years ago this month, one of the bloodiest battles in history began near the Somme River in France. In July of 1916, the United States had not yet officially entered World War I, but that did not stop some Americans from joining the Allied cause. One such volunteer, Alan Seeger, would pay the ultimate price during the first week of this carnage.

Alan Seeger was born on June 22nd, 1888, in New York, although he and his family moved frequently. He was accepted to Harvard University in 1906, where he was classmates with several well-known American poets and authors such as T.S. Elliott and Walter Lippman. After graduating from Harvard, Seeger moved to Paris in 1912 and fell in love with his new home. This love eventually roused him to join the French Foreign Legion on August 24, 1914, soon after the outbreak of World War I.seeger monument cropArtist Jean Boucher used Alan Seeger’s photograph as inspiration for the French monument to all American volunteers.

Seeger was an advocate for American involvement in the War, and even wrote to his mother on one occasion, “there should really be no neutrals in a conflict like this, where there is not a people whose interests are not involved.” He wrote the famous poem, “Rendezvous with Death” during his time in the French Foreign Legion. This poem would decades later become one of President John F. Kennedy’s favorites.

By the time he put pen to paper for these immortal verses, his unit had already participated in one major offensive in Champagne, France, in September 1915. This poem shows Seeger’s desire for a glorious death in service of the home he had come to love so much. This attitude was further echoed in his letters home, one of which reads, “I expect to march right up the Aisne borne on an irresistible [spirit]. It will be the greatest moment of my life.”

Read more: An American Dies in the Battle of the Somme 100 Years Ago

100 Cities / 100 Memorials restoration program launches on July 15

At the end of World War I, thousands of war memorials of every size were built in local communities across the country. Over the decades, under exposure to the elements, these memorials have aged. We must act now – to restore both their physical beauty and our awareness of the men and women they memorialize.

140820 blog photo wwi memorials york paThe York County World War I Fairground Memorial (1921) in York, PATo help motivate and support this restoration, the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials program is launching on July 15, 2016 with $200,000 in initial funding provided by the World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library for matching grants. These two organizations continue to seek other major funding partners nationwide to expand the funds available to encourage and match the fundraising efforts of the awardees.

The purpose of 100 Cities/ 100 Memorials is to motivate and support the efforts of local organizations across the country to honor the memory of their hometown war heroes, to build awareness of the war’s impact on their local communities, and to restore and provide for the ongoing upkeep of their local World War I memorials, all in time for the nation’s centennial celebrations scheduled for November 2018 – celebrations that will also include the unveiling of the new national World War I Memorial in the nation’s capital.

Read more: 100 Cities / 100 Memorials restoration program launches on July 15

Six Questions with R.G. Head

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

Brigadier General R.G. Head, USAF (Ret.) is the author of “A Chronology of World War I Aviation Events,” a truly immersive and enthralling timeline of the history and development of aviation in World War I.

Q: What inspired you to produce the complete World War I aviation timeline?

rg head 350Brigadier General R.G. Head, USAF (Ret.), author of the "A Chronology of World War I Events in the Air" timelineFirst, I was educated at the US Air Force Academy, so my interest is in aviation. I was inspired to develop a chronology of aviation events in World War One by the work of the Centennial Commission and the fact that I was working on WWI research for a book at the time and had been for about four years. Four years ago I built a five-foot wingspan model of the Fokker Dr. I flown by Manfred Von Richthofen, the Red Baron, which now hangs in the Coronado, CA, Public Library. Two years ago I built a six-foot model of Oswald Boelcke’s Albatros D. II, to museum quality, and it now resides in a beautiful case in the San Diego Air & Space Museum, along with the Blue Max and others of his medals. I made several public presentations with each of these two models. After completion of the Albatros, my wife suggested putting much of the research material I had gathered on Oswald Boelcke into a book. I had previously connected with the Commander of the German Tactical Fighter Wing 31 that was named after Oswald Boelcke. I also had the assistance of a German archivist who was a member of the Boelcke Tradition Association, in Eschweiler, Germany, and he helped me gather a whole host of memorabilia and literature about this famous pilot. Finally, I was just then writing a Chronology of Oswald Boelcke’s life to include in the book, so when I got in contact with the WWI Commission, it was a natural step to volunteer to expand the Boelcke Chronology more broadly to WWI aviation events. I turned the Chronology over to the Commission, and Theo Mayer and Chris Christopher, with the brilliant work of two interns, transformed the Chronology into the Excel Timeline and made it accessible on the Internet.

One of my professional beliefs is that writers of 20th Century military history have traditionally focused on the ground or sea war and neglected the role of aviation. Maybe this is because they are not familiar with it. Regardless of the reason, once the airplane was invented, it immediately created not only the Air Combat role between opposing air forces, but the contribution to the ground or sea battle by reconnaissance or direct attack. My hope is that the Great War in the Air Timeline will provide to historians and the public some air events for their consideration.

Read more: Six Questions with R.G. Head

One-woman show on World War 1 nurses premieres in DC

"Tap" leads to story ideas, details make stories come alive

By Ellouise Schoettler

Ready to ServeI started my storytelling career in the 1970’s, mostly telling family stories gathered by asking relatives and through genealogy research. More recently I am drawn to American women’s military history, particularly World War One stories.

In the first years after my husband was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, I spent many hours visiting his grave site, often meeting others visiting their family grave sites. While my husband and I had been coming to the cemetery together since the mid-1960’s to visit the grave site of our youngest child, visiting the site my husband now shared with her brought to focus that Arlington would one day be my “home”, too.

I channeled that reality check into a popular one-woman show - "Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home" – that also led me to focus on other military history programs.

I first heard about the American women switchboard operators who served in France during WWI as members of the Signal Corps, at the Women in Military Service Foundation archives (WIMSA) which is an amazing resource.

Read more: Ellouise Schoettler "Ready to Serve" stories of WW1 nurses

WWI video game may raise awareness of Great War in younger audience

By Adam Bieniek
Staff Writer

When it comes to computer video games, World War I is not a common setting. Most popular games, such as those of the acclaimed CALL OF DUTY franchise, tend be set in futuristic worlds, World War II, or in the wars of modern day. However, in October, the video game company DICE will release a World War I-themed video game called BATTLEFIELD1, the latest of their popular Battlefield series, which will be published by Electronic Arts (EA).

Battlefield 1 cover artBATTLEFIELD1 is expected to bring significant attention to the Great War from a largely new, young audience. The first trailer for the game was released on May 6th, 2016 on YouTube and quickly garnered some 41.4 million views within its first two months online.

EA DICE took a risk with this game. There were concerns that younger audiences would not have enough background knowledge about World War I to be interested. An earlier video game, VERDUN, was launched in 2015 by M2H and Blackmill Games, to very modest results. Yet, somehow, EA and DICE were able to capture imaginations among their followers, to such an extent that BATTLEFIELD1 is predicted to be one of the most anticipated games of 2016.

Read more: WWI video game may raise awareness of Great War in younger audience

Partnership formalized between Oshkosh Airshow and the World War One Centennial Commission

By Roger Fisk
Staff Writer

A formal partnership has been established between the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) annual Oshkosh Airshow, also known as OSH16, and the World War One Centennial Commission (WW1CC), which serves as the official commemorative commission for this country’s recognition of the 4.7 million young men and women who served in uniform during the Great War.

Fokker and Pup in tandemThe Sopwith Scout “Pup” and Fokker DrI flying in tandem. Both aircraft will be at EAA AirVenture 2016 as part of its World War I aviation centennial. (Golden Age Air Museum photo)The partnership reflects the World War One theme that this year’s Oshkosh visitors will see at the iconic air show in late July, as well as the increase in awareness and appreciation of World War One across the country as the 100th anniversary of American mobilization approaches.

In addition to the vintage aircraft, historical re-enactors and other WW1 displays at Oshkosh, this new partnership will bring historians and authors from the WW1CC to the speaking venues throughout the air show. Attendees can visit the WW1CC camp and access educational materials, free packets of Flanders Poppy Seeds, take a WW1 helmet selfie and support the National World War One Memorial that is being designed for construction in Washington DC’s Pershing Park.

“World War I was the first time aviation attracted the interest and investment by governments as military resources, moving from individual inventors, with remarkable advancements in technology within a short period time,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member benefits, who coordinates the features and attractions at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. “The World War One Centennial Commission brings context and depth to our commemoration of aviation of that time, and we’re excited to have them as part of the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration.”

WW1CC Executive Director Dan Dayton is thrilled as well. “OSH16 attracts passionate, patriotic people from all over the country and we are thrilled to partner with them as we engage the American people in the 100th anniversary of World War One.”

Roger Fisk is Director of Development at the World War One Centennial Commission.

French visit B 06222016 400 French officials visit Centennial Commission offices in DC

By Kate Lyons
Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. (June 22, 2016) -- Senior officials of the French government visited WWI Centennial Headquarters in Washington today for a working session on international plans for the centennial. The delegation was welcomed by Commission Vice Chair Edwin Fountain and Executive Director Dan Dayton.

← Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance Jean-Marc Todeschini of France (center) is given a tour of Pershing Park by national World War 1 Memorial architect Joe Weishaar (right) and U.S. World War 1 Centennial Commission Vice Chair Edwin Fountain (left).On November 19, 2015 France and the United States entered into a bilateral agreement of cooperation regarding centennial efforts in the coming years. Jean-Marc Todeschini, Secretary for Veterans Affairs of France, noted the success of the cooperation so far, citing the re-dedication of the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial earlier this year.

Discussions included process, education efforts, and fundraising initiatives. Vice Chair Fountain who serves as general counsel for the American Battle Monuments Commission [AMBC], also discussed joint AMBC projects regarding World War I cemeteries, as well as future centennial events in various former Allied nations.

Deputy Chief of Mission for the French Embassy Nathalie Broadhurst also reiterated the Embassy’s interest in providing direct assistance with commemorative events during 2017.

Read more: French government officials visit WWI Centennial Commission offices in DC

Four Questions for Sabin Howard

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

Sabin Howard is the sculptor half of the partnership that is developing the design for the National World War I Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. during the centennial period of America’s involvement in World War I.

Q: You recently visited the home of Daniel Chester French, who is known for sculpting the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial. What was that experience like? What did you take away from it?

Sabin in studioHoward says visiting French’s studio and seeing his maquettes got him excited about the next steps of the design process.“It was really interesting, because I’m not a modernist in this way of thinking, that you have to reinvent the wheel. I see it as there are a certain amount of art forms out there, one of them being classicism, so I’m playing it forward, and it’s my responsibility to play it forward. So I went to his studio and of course I had a tremendous amount of kinship looking at the plasters and [his] work. The last piece he did was, “Andromeda,” the female reclining figure, and there is such a high level of energy and you can see it in how all of the pieces are put together, thinking about two really big elements: great attention to the structure of the figure, or how the skeleton is gestured. The poses are very calculated carefully. There’s a lot of rhythm - meaning curves, which is a lot of how muscle inserts can go from an origin to an insertion. So you can see how he’s manipulating to his knowledge on the body put together, and that’s the kinship that I felt. Here’s a man 100 years ago who was doing something to serve his country using his art form, and I think that’s something that I didn’t understand until I got into this process, that drives you to a higher level artistically. It’s a kinship because I’m working the same way, translating it into sculpture and that form of translation is classical.”

Q: So how would you compare or contrast your style with French’s?

“I think it’s different style because we live in a different time. Now there’s a tremendous amount of visual input in our society. Back then the photo was just coming into effect, now it’s pervasive. So you have come up with this hyper-realism, that we’re involved with today. It’s like amping it to the next level. That’s why I’m saying I’m playing it forward. So I’m doing that same thing he’s doing, but the things that I’m seeing are amplified because of the circumstances of our culture."

Read more: Sabin Howard draws inspiration for national WWI Memorial sculptures

Author Hew Strachan to receive 2016 PMML Lifetime Achievement award

StrachanCHICAGO — Award-winning author, historian and military strategist Hew Strachan is the recipient of the 2016 Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing.

One of the world’s foremost scholars of 19th Century military history and World War One, Strachan will formally accept the award November 5 at the Museum & Library's 2016 Liberty Gala, where he will be honored for an impressive body of work dedicated to enriching the understanding of military history. Sponsored by Tawani Foundation, the Pritzker Literature Award includes a citation, medallion, and $100,000 honorarium.

Author of 14 major publications, including the first installment of his groundbreaking three-volume work on the Great War The First World War (To Arms,) Strachan is known for his incredibly detailed and carefully researched writings. His research interests center on the military history and strategic studies, with particular interest in the First World War and the history of the British Army. Strachan continuously expands the traditional narrow narrative beyond the trenches of the Western Front to consider the conflict's global implications, a method particularly resonant in our increasingly globalized society.

Read more: Strachan to receive 2016 PMML Lifetime Achievement award

Cher Ami: The Pigeon that Saved the Lost Battalion

By Adam Bieniek
Staff Writer

Many of us have heard of the Lost Battalion, and know some of the story. What is not commonly known is the role of a remarkable pigeon, named Cher Ami. That little bird became one of the greatest heroes of World War I.

Cher AmiCher Ami at the Smithsonian Institution. (Photo by Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History)Cher Ami was one of almost 600 carrier pigeons employed by the US Army Signal Corps during the First World War. Carrier pigeons were invaluable , in spite of the advances in communications technology during the war. Radios were not as reliable since they were large and still bound by delicate wires. It also was not always possible to lay new wires quickly, and often could be extremely dangerous. While not necessarily a popular form of communication, pigeons did prove a reliable one. The average homing pigeon can fly approximately fifty miles per hour, making them a quick method of communication. Still, these pigeons often proved popular targets to enemy gunfire despite their speed. In fact, German machine gunners trained diligently to both spot and kill these birds with their deadly MG 08s, which could fire over 500 rounds per minute. Pigeons could also be a very risky way to communicate, because if a pigeon was shot down, the message could easily be intercepted by enemy forces.cher ami 2The US Army Signal Corps used some 600 pigeons in WW1.

It was during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918 where the carrier pigeon was finally recognized for its valiant efforts. On October 2nd, 1918, American soldiers from the 77th Division pushed too far into the Argonne Forest and became trapped behind German lines on the slopes of a hill. Cut off from reinforcements and supplies, roughly 550 men from the 306th, 307th, and 308th regiments under Major Charles Whittlesey held their ground against a far larger German force for several days. Far beyond radio range, the only way the Americans could communicate with their own lines was via carrier pigeon. However, it did not take long to realize that the skies were as dangerous as the ground. Trapped in a horrible meatgrinder of machine guns and rain, the Lost Battalion held their ground against vicious German attacks.

Read more: Cher Ami: The Pigeon that Saved the Lost Battalion

Chronology highlights aviation history of WW1

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

There is no one way to look at history, and World War I is no exception. The war can be viewed from the trenches, the seas, the home front, or even the skies. Unfortunately, the latter is often left by the sidelines, completely obscured from modern audiences. However, thanks to the diligent work of retired Air Force Brigadier General Richard G. Head, and his willingness to work with the World War I Centennial Commission, that is about to change.

aviation timeline600The World War I Centennial Commission is pleased to unveil an exciting new addition to the Commission’s website: A Chronology of World War I Aviation Events. Created by retired Air Force Brigadier General Richard G. Head, this timeline is a truly impressive feat of advanced research and modern technology. With over six hundred entries, this timeline illustrates year-by-year the high-flying and in depth developments in aviation as they happened throughout the war.

The war in the air is often an overlooked battlefield in the study of this conflict. The many epic tales of bravery and sacrifice in the skies are largely unknown or forgotten. Some of which include aces like Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who scored an impressive 26 victories in the air, and Captain John Hedley, who against all odds survived falling out of his plane by being caught mid-air thanks to his pilot’s maneuvering.

These pilots fought thousands of feet above the devastated fields of France, with nothing for protection aside from their wit and training. Being in the days before parachutes, their only recourse during a crash was a pistol attached to their belts. These epic tales of incredible daring, and scores of others, are all illustrated on the timeline.

The timeline is entirely user-friendly as well. Readers can scroll through the events date by date to see major highlights of the developments in the skies. The information is presented in an easy to understand manner, and gives viewers a real sense of scale to the conflict.

Read more: Chronology highlights aviation history of WW1

Introducing the new 2016 Summer Interns at the Commission office

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

The World War I Centennial Commission is pleased to present its first group of interns for the summer! Coming from different corners of the country, and the world, this group of students has been working with the Commission for the past few weeks. They each bring a wide variety of experience and creativity to our team, and we are excited to introduce them.

Interns 5002016 Summer Interns class at the U.S. World War 1 Centennial Commission. (Back row, left to right) Kyle Parks, Adam Bieniek, James Alsberg, Jack Wood, Kate Lyons, Alessandro Burlew, Michael Parks (Front row, left to right) Sarah Pfeiff, Kara Mullin, Mackensie Henn, Sarah Biegelsen, and Elizabeth Rupert.Michael Parks is from Oradell, New Jersey and is a student at the George Washington University. He came in because he never really learned about World War I in all his years of schooling. “It seemed kind of ridiculous that 100 years after WWI, we don’t have a national memorial [in DC].”

Michael is part of the Commission’s Development division, and openly admits that while he is new to the field, he has enjoyed the experience greatly. When asked if he was surprised with the assignment, he responded, “If you told me a month ago, I’d say, ‘no way.’” However, this experience has really opened his eyes to the array of possibilities open to him after college. You can still find things you enjoy doing in an office, even at our age.”

One of our Management & Education interns, Elizabeth Rupert, wants to be a teacher after she graduates. She says, “I want my students to understand that history affects us today.” For her, it is also important to honor those who protected our freedoms, and laid down their lives for the greater good, even though the U.S. was divided on entering the war initially. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she admits that she came to Washington, D.C. for the summer so that she could be surrounded by history. “I want to educate people on the importance of not forgetting our history, and making sure that it’s not mere words on a page.”


Read more: New Summer Interns at the Commission

WSU professor helps Dayton, WWI exhibit

DAYTON, OH — A 27-foot long, nine-foot high replica war trench complete with sandbags and wood framing greets visitors when they tour a new exhibition on Dayton’s role in World War I.

Dayton paul lockhart over there 17572 025 508x383Paul Lockhart, left,  professor of history at Wright State University, and Brady Kress, Carillon Historical Park president and CEO, helped organize “Over There: Dayton and the Great War,” now on display at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton. The idea is to put people in the trenches, said Brady Kress, Carillon Historical Park president and CEO.

“With everything that we do, I always want to create some kind of experiential piece,” said Kress, who graduated from Wright State in 1996.

The trench is one of the unique features in “Over There: Dayton and the Great War,” a new exhibit organized by Carillon Historical Park with assistance by a Wright State history professor. The exhibit is open through November 2018.

Using diaries, letters, documents, photographs and artifacts, “Over There” showcases the essential involvement of Daytonians and local businesses in the war. Thousands enlisted and fought in Europe, businesses made unique and important contributions to the war effort, and the community emerged wealthier and larger.

“This is one of those exhibits that is the story of a city at war. We learned a lot about Dayton,” Kress said.

Dayton’s involvement in the war is greatly representative of middle America during this period, said Paul Lockhart, professor of history and the Brage Golding Distinguished Professor of Research at Wright State.

“All those things that tell the story of the United States in World War I are to be found in Dayton, and in particular Dayton contributed some genuinely unique things” to the war effort, he said. “The war made Dayton.”

Read more: WSU professor helps Dayton, WWI exhibit

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